Bootstrappers Breakfast Presents Web Analytics

It was a great honor to speak at the Bootstrapper’s Breakfast last week. Where else can you meet and eat with local entrepreneurs who you can one day say, “I knew —- back when . . .”

For those of you who were unable to attend, here’s a recap:

Web analytics is all about understanding your customers, your site’s performance, and the results of your marketing efforts across all mediums. It’s not a one-time vaccine that allows you to dump all your efforts into your website one time and then leave it alone for the next three years. It’s an on-going process of making changes and then watching the results of those changes.
Use analytics to understand your audience and behaviors and then optimize/improve/correct the site based on that knowledge. Watch what new results come out after the changes then, as I say, rinse and repeat.

Specifically, businesses should use analytics to

  • Know exactly where their clients are coming from
  • Learn how much time/money it costs a company to find those clients
  • Discover how satisfied people are with the course that is mapped for them
  • See where companies are losing their customers
  • Find out where to focus their time

In an ideal world, customers will find and come to your site, fall in love with your product, purchase it without any issues, and sing your praises to all of their friends. But the reality is that only small percentage of visitors ever start your sales process and those numbers continue to dwindle with every click.

eCommerce FunnelFor example:

  • 3,285 people visit your site
  • 428 put items in their shopping cart
  • 195 go to the shipping information
  • 104 continue to the payment screen
  • 65 hit submit and place the order

The 65 represent 15% of the initial visitors with intent to purchase and 2% of your total visitors for this period of time.

Analytics will sift through data at each step to find out where those first 3,285 people came from. What were they looking for? What information did they want? What items did those 428 put in the shopping cart? What didn’t they like or what couldn’t they do that made 54% leave the shopping cart sitting in the aisle? Where did the 91 people go after completing the shipping information? What did they find out that made them “get out of line?” How can you get more people like the 65 who actually completed the whole process?

Ultimately, what are the goals for your site?

  • Get more leads?
  • Increase sales?
  • Increase downloads?
  • Increase usage of FAQ/help?

When you use solid and thoughtful analytics, you can match customer expectations with your intent to create the magic called conversion. But without a goal, web analytics is just a huge collection of data.

Information is fun and fascinating, but ACTIONABLE insights create revenue. And that’s what we’re all here to do, right?

Six Media Mentors You Should Know

We’ve all been around the technology block long enough to see things come and go. Remember Beta tapes? The floppy disk?

So it’s no wonder that we cast a suspicious eye to social networking. Sure, all the kids are doing it these days, but they change their tastes before you can say “Abercrombie and Fitch.” What practical application does it have for adults? For the business person? We ponder the age-old question: what can it do for _me_?

Enter Janet Fouts, a senior partner at Tatu Digital Media in Silicon Valley, and a Social Media enabler (her words—not mine). Janet was doing research for her book, Social Media Success and she asked what people really wanted to learn. It seemed that they all had pretty much the same questions. She then set to work to assemble a team of independent mentors who will help fine tune your marketing and online strategies so that you will know, at the end of the day, what social media can do for you.

Meet them.

I heard someone talking about a “sales funnel” in GA. What is it and how does that work on my website? –Margaret W.

eCommerce Funnel Image

Just as your kitchen funnel is designed to take some food item or liquid from a large container and guide it neatly into a smaller opening, a sales funnel in Google Analytics is a visual method of watching your potential customers (visitors) move along your goal path. It’s very helpful in seeing where people “pop out” and don’t finish the process. As a result, this gives you a chance to ask yourself why your audience is jumping ship before they have reached your goal.

For example, I was working with an eCommerce site and they had never set up their sales funnel. Once that was in place, they found dozens of people starting the purchase process by selecting their items, putting in their shipping information, but not completing the sale.

This made us ask several questions:

  • what were the customers finding out for the first time on that page? (e.g. Shipping or handling fees not stated earlier)
  • was the credit card function working?
  • did the checkout page give the customer all the information he/she needed?

In this case, the checkout page was broken and customers couldn’t find the “submit order” button! Under normal circumstances, customers would have sent an email to the company and pointed this out, but we’re talking about a small company and people were simply going to Google to find a different company that sold the same products instead. Even more upsetting was that this had been going on for at least a month! Imagine the lost sales!

To set up a good funnel, you need to establish your goal pages. If you sell something on your website, it could be as simple as:

  1. Customers will put items in the shopping cart
  2. Customers will input shipping information
  3. Customers will complete the transaction

But if you don’t sell something, you should still have goals and then watch what happens in the course of your funnel

  1. Viewers read my blog
  2. Viewers will click on an additional blog entry
  3. Viewers will click on the “contact me” button

Do I need SEO? –Greg W.

I spend a lot of time around my seven-year-old, so I’m going to employ a little imagination for this answer. Try it with me:

Pretend you are Google–or any other search engine. Someone sits down at their computer, opens your search Captain Super Searchwindow, and types. You spring into action and get to work! Within a fraction of a second, you need to scan millions of websites to return the best results for this person. So, let me ask you, Captain Super Search: what are you looking for? In a millisecond, you went from 4 million pages to 100 and now you need to give your waiting person 15. What will make you pick those 15? Keywords that have been sitting still for the last four years? The title of the page?

The answer is simple: you will return the most recent and relevant sites in the database. While in the past this was performed by using things like keywords in title tags, meta tags, bold text, and other little tricks, today’s Captain Super Search is far too savvy for that and you will mostly ignore those.

My belief is that standard SEO techniques will give you only marginal advantage and bare nudges in search engine rankings. I will go as far as to say that Google will even skip the title tag and go straight to the content. If that passes muster, then it will check the site for valid links to other validated content. Only when that is completed will it grab the tag to add to the listing.

The bottom line is that you want to write sincere content that contains the proper information for your readers. Magically, your keywords will come to life in your text. If you are writing about cookware, you will “naturally” talk about the pots and pans (feel free to change the example) and thus take care of the keywords without having to worry about it.

So if you want to spend a lot of money on SEO techniques, call me and I will gladly apply those for you. Otherwise, just write sincere and on-target content, comment on other blogs about the same topics, create conversation on your blog, and your page ranking will take care of itself. And, Captain, that frees up your time to fight other content crimes!

I’m a failure at math. How can I understand web analysis reports? –Natalie T.

This sounds like a question from my wife who breaks out in hives when she gets near numbers. If you understand simple percentages, you’ll be fine as long as you see the information in a format that works for you.higher math

Be sure to communicate with your analyst and tell him or her how you would like to receive reports. There are a number of ways to impart information to you: pie charts, bar graphs, text summaries, and so on. Maybe you are an auditory learner and need a phone conference to walk through the findings. If you’re a visual person, ask your analyst to set up a video conference through Dimdim or some other service.

The most important thing is to advocate for yourself. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to say that something isn’t clear or needs more explanation. I’ve really appreciated my customers asking me to do that because, in the process, I’ve come up with several analogies that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I’m a very logical, linear thinker and when I work with creative, right-brain people, it’s important for me to create reports that are clear, understandable, and useful.

Finally, I think the most important part of a report is not necessarily the numbers but rather the recommendations. Make sure that your analyst gives you actionable items for your site. Unfortunately, this is where many businesses stop short. They will install Google Analytics on their site, look at the results a few times, and think to themselves, “Cool.” A good analyst will look at that information with more depth, pull the various items apart, analyze your website, and then make a list of action items. After the changes are made, you and your analyst should start that whole process over again. Rinse and repeat.

How long do you work on a project? –David A.

Did anyone ask George Lucas how long filming “Star Wars” would take?

Did the Pope ever ask Michaelangelo how long the Sistine Chapel would take?How long will this take?

Okay, maybe those are bad comparisons. More accurately, it would be like asking a personal trainer how long it would take to get someone in shape. Are we talking about losing 25 lbs. to look good for your class reunion or long-term health that will improve your body, energy, and quality of life.

So I would ask you: What shape is your website in? Is it sitting around doing nothing or at least taking walks?

What’s your overall objective with your web page? Do you need a sprint for a short burst of attention or are you going the distance and working to increase traffic months from now?

What action do you want to come from your visits? How often do you want people to come visit and what do you want them to do once there?

To get back to the apologetically vague answer: it depends on the size of your site, your goals, and how proactive you want to be. I’ve worked with people for just a few hours and I have other projects that still need on-going, monthly support.

I like to view web analytics in terms of long term health–maybe you need some extra attention up front and then move to a few hours for monthly check-ups.